Monday, 26 September 2016 09:55

Comedy and music tour to hit North Island

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(From left to right) Emma Newborn, Mel Parsons and Amelia Dunbar. (From left to right) Emma Newborn, Mel Parsons and Amelia Dunbar.

Comedy and musical group ‘Sons of a Bitch’ and singer Mel Parsons are preparing for their North Island Woolsheds Tour starting October 19.

The tour is supported by Farmstrong, whose publicity officer Paula Yeoman asked ‘bitch’ Amelia Dunbar about the phenomenon.

How did you select the woolsheds for this tour?

I would like to be able to say they just fell into my lap, but there were many hours on the phone grilling friends, friends of friends, shearing contractors and stock agents about shed size, location and whether the shed has a raised or flat board. Fortunately, some sheds we decided we’d return to, and they all enthusiastically agreed to have us back.

You are playing in the Cambridge Town Hall – did you have trouble finding a woolshed in that area?

It wasn’t so much that we struggled to find woolsheds around Cambridge – they are certainly there – but there was a capacity issue. Strong support in the North Island over the years means we’ve simply outgrown some venues. We always try to stick with woolsheds, but if it comes down to cutting the audience in half versus getting lots of people out for a fun night, we’ll always go for the latter. We might sneak in a full daggy fadge or two to add a little woolshed olfactory authenticity to the non-woolshed spaces.

Apart from the odd place, you’re mostly performing in working woolsheds. Describe the set-up process from the moment you arrive at the farm gate to the moment you close the gate on your way out.

From the farm gate we follow our noses to the woolshed, back the horse truck up to the loading platform and start a chain gang unloading chairs, lighting gear, sound gear, stage curtain, props, and bar (and booze). We then work out seating, where the power points are – we need heaps – then head off to our respective areas to set up; this normally takes a couple of hours (with the exception of power phases or gear breakdowns) and then it’s a quick freshen-up and onto front of house and the bar for an hour for Emma and me. Once Mel hits the stage we dash off for a warm-up on the horse truck floor or get into character by chatting to resident dogs. Then we snarl, prance and howl on stage for 50 minutes, take a bow and then what feels like half a burger later, we’re packing the illusion down and loading the horse truck up again ready for the morning departure.

How much help do you get from the farmer in setting up and packing down?

We always try for minimal impact on our hosts. It’s already an enormously generous thing for them to open up their farms to us and a couple of hundred locals, so we don’t ask for or expect help. But for many of our wonderful hosts it’s hard not to pitch in and, yes, the 200 folding chairs feel double their weight by the end of the night, so a bit of grunt is warmly accepted.

This Farmstrong-supported tour emphasises to farmers the importance of living and farming well. Why is this an important message?

Farmers looking after themselves is paramount. If you’re not living well and looking after yourself, it’s unlikely you will look after your staff, your stock or your farm well. It is easy to see how a farmer can take on the pressures and stresses of farming and end up putting their own wellbeing on the back burner. We need to change that. We’re thrilled that we can help Farmstrong get the message out there and get rural people off the farm, seeing neighbours and sharing the load and putting themselves first.

Do you find farmers are generally open to the idea of taking better care of themselves and ensuring they’re having fun in between all the hard work?

Of course! I don’t know many people who don’t like a bit of fun and farmers are no exception.

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